Sunday, November 25, 2018

Living Artfully - finding Thoreau in art and the art of living

" .... because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."  -- Henry David Thoreau

In the past couple years, I have begun to discover art and the art of living in ways that I'd long imagined, but have never really visualized. And, as I've been working through a unit of Romanticism and Transcendentalism with my classes, I have pondered and discussed the Thoreauvian approach to our dailiness. What HDT described as living deliberately, I've tried to re-imagine as living artfully. Though I never took an art class, and I certainly don't consider myself an artist or even artistic, I am trying to experience more art in my life, and subsequently experience life as art.

Art and the art of living pops up all over the place if we take the time to notice and appreciate it. This morning in the Wall Street Journal weekend edition I was reminded in a column by Frank Wilczek about the brilliance found in the art and research our earliest neuro-scientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Before visiting MIT this summer with my family, I don't know that I'd ever heard of RyC, but I was captivated when I discovered the exhibit of his drawings at the MIT Museum. To learn that he was accurately drawing his ideas of what neurons looked like decades before we had the MRI technology to know for sure was practically magical to me. If you've never see Ramon y Cajal's work (and don't have plans to visit MIT soon), it's worth taking a look at his vision of The Beautiful Brain.

I thought again of art's importance while reading Lance Esplund's Masterpiece reflection about his first "life changing encounter with art." For a future art critic like Esplund, it was odd but familiar and gratifying to hear him reveal how his first experience with arts masters left him empty and not connected. Truly we know that Rembrandt and Da Vinci are great - we may just not be moved by them. Then along comes something sublime in a different way - for Esplund that work was Paul Klee's "Howling Dog."  Something in the colors or the style grabbed him emotionally and let him directly experience the art in the way that Klee intended. And that is the sort of living artfully that I seek more of in my life. Not all of us go on to become erudite art critics, but we can all appreciate looking at the world more artfully.

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